BENITEZ v. JMC RECYCLING SYSTEMS LTD. et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Joseph E. Irenas on 4/10/2015. (drw)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS
CIVIL ACTION NO. 13-2737
JMC RECYCLING SYSTEMS, LTD.,
STRIP TECHNOLOGY, INC., DR.
COPPER, LLC, J. DOE (A through
Z) and R. ROE (A through Z),
WILENTZ GOLDMAN & SPITZER P.A.
By: Barry A. Cooke, Esq.
Meridian Center I
Two Industrial Way West
Eatontown, NJ 07724
Counsel for Plaintiff
CLAUSEN MILLER P.C.
By: Ruth V. Simon, Esq.
100 Campus Drive, Suite 112
Florham Park, NJ 07932
Counsel for Defendant JMC Recycling Systems, Ltd.
IRENAS, Senior District Judge:
Plaintiff Anthony Benitez brought this products liability
action against Defendants JMC Recycling Systems, Ltd. (“JMC”),
Strip Technology, Inc., and Dr. Copper, LLC to recover for
injuries allegedly sustained while operating a metal recycling
shear in a recycling facility in Pennsauken, New Jersey.
Pending before the Court is Defendant JMC’s motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(2).
For the reasons stated herein, JMC’s motion
will be GRANTED.
Plaintiff Benitez was employee of Dr. Copper LLC, a New
Jersey Corporation, and worked at Dr. Copper’s recycling
processing facility located at 2250 Sherman Avenue, Pennsauken,
(Compl. at 2)
According to the Complaint, on May
5, 2011, during the course of his employment, Plaintiff
sustained severe and permanent injuries while operating a metal
Plaintiff then brought the present lawsuit
against Dr. Copper, and included claims against JMC, the alleged
manufacturer and distributer of the metal recycling shear, and
Strip Technology, the alleged distributor and retail seller of
JMC recycling equipment.1
(Compl. at 3-8)
Plaintiff’s claims against JMC and Strip Technology, described as counts for
products liability, consumer fraud, and negligence, are, in effect, claims
under the New Jersey Products Liability Act, which subsumes “any claim or
action brought by a claimant for harm caused by a product, irrespective of
the theory underlying the claim, except actions for harm caused by breach of
an express warranty.” N.J.S.A. 2A:58C-1.
JMC is a foreign corporation with its principal place of
business in Nottingham, England.
(Compl. at 2)
Along with its
motion to dismiss, JMC submitted a Declaration from its Director
Sally Johnson providing further detail about the entity.
(Johnson Decl. I)
According to Ms. Johnson, JMC is a private
limited company organized under the laws of the United Kingdom.
(Id. ¶ 2)
Ms. Johnson states that JMC has neither assets,
offices, nor employees in New Jersey, and conducts no business
in New Jersey.
(Id. ¶ 5)
(Id. ¶ 4)
JMC pays no taxes in New Jersey.
The company’s Board of Directors has never conducted
a meeting in New Jersey.
(Id. ¶ 7)
While JMC employees have
travelled to the United States to attend trade shows, Ms.
Johnson does not recall JMC employees ever having attended a
trade show in New Jersey, and she claims that JMC employees have
not travelled to New Jersey to conduct business of any kind for
(Id. ¶ 8)
In 2003, JMC entered into an agreement with Strip
Technology by which Strip Technology would be the sole
distributor of JMC’s products in the United States.
(Id. ¶¶ 12-
Strip Technology is also a foreign corporation located in
Fort Worth, Texas.
(Compl. at 2)
Ms. Johnson states that JMC
transferred title on all products, including the metal recycling
shear at issue, to Strip Technology by contract in the United
Kingdom prior to shipment to the United States.
(Id. ¶¶ 13-14)
Payment for the products JMC sold to Strip Technology also took
place in England.
(Id. ¶ 15)
JMC has never controlled or owned
any interest in Strip Technology.
(Id. ¶ 11)
relationship between JMC and Strip Technology has since ended.
(Id. ¶ 15)
With regards to the relevant recycling shear, Ms. Johnson
states that, if the allegedly defective product was manufactured
by JMC, Strip Technology was the party that marketed,
distributed, and sold the product.
(Id. ¶ 10)
shipped products to or marketed its products in New Jersey, and
made no decisions as to where Strip Technology would sell the
products after title transferred in England.
(Id. ¶¶ 16, 18,
JMC provides no services to end users in New Jersey who
purchase the products from Strip Technology, and no consumers
can order new replacement parts directly from JMC.
(Id. ¶ 21)
Plaintiff filed his Complaint against all Defendants on
April 23, 2013.
Dr. Copper answered and filed cross-claims
against JMC and Strip Technology.
JMC filed its Answer on
October 9, 2014, and instituted cross-claims against all other
(Docket. No. 24)
On October 31, 2014, Strip
Technology answered and filed cross-claims against Dr. Copper
(Docket No. 28)
Since commencing the lawsuit, Plaintiff has settled with
and voluntarily dismissed its claims against Dr. Copper.
(Stipulation and Order of Dismissal as to Defendant Dr. Copper,
Docket No. 10)
Strip Technology has also voluntarily dismissed
its cross-claim against Dr. Copper without prejudice.2
Granting Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, Docket No. 34)
On November 13, 2014, JMC filed the instant motion to
dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint and any cross-claims for lack of
personal jurisdiction, a defense JMC first raised in its Answer.3
In lieu of a formal opposition brief, Plaintiff filed a letter
requesting that the Court deny JMC’s motion pending “discovery
of the defendant JMC Recycling Systems, Ltd. as to any nexus
with the State of New Jersey.”
(Pl.’s Ltr., Docket No. 30)
Without making any specific factual allegations, Plaintiff seeks
(1) invoices for products sold directly to customers in New
Jersey, (2) bills of lading for shipments of products and/or
parts to end users located in New Jersey, (3) copies of
distribution agreements, including JMC’s distribution agreement
Remaining in this litigation are (1) Plaintiff’s claims against JMC and
Strip Technology, (2) Dr. Copper’s and Strip Technology’s cross-claims
against JMC, and (3) JMC’s cross-claims against Dr. Copper and Strip
3 Although Plaintiff fails to raise the issue, the Court notes that JMC filed
the instant motion to dismiss after answering the Complaint, despite the
requirement that motions pursuant to Rule 12(b) be made “before pleading if a
responsive pleading is allowed.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b). However, courts in
the Third Circuit have generally been unwilling to deny such motions as
untimely when a defendant included the same grounds as an affirmative defense
in its answer. See Law v. Schonbraun McCann Grp., LLC, No. 08-2982 (WJM),
2009 WL 3380321, at *1 n. 1 (D.N.J. Oct. 19, 2009); Molnlycke Health Care AB
v. Dumez Med. Surgical Prods. Ltd., 64 F. Supp. 2d 448, 449 n. 1 (E.D. Pa.
1999). In line with these prior opinions, and since JMC included lack
personal jurisdiction as a defense in its answer, the Court will hear JMC’s
with Strip Technology, and (4) copies of documents related to
the dissolution of J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd.4
In a second Declaration attached to JMC’s reply, Ms.
Johnson states that there are no invoices or bills of lading for
products sold or shipped to customers in New Jersey because JMC
never shipped products for delivery to Strip Technology or
anyone else in New Jersey.
(Johnson Decl. II ¶ 4)
claims that there are no copies of distribution agreements with
Strip Technology because “[t]he machines were simply sold to
them for resale using the standard terms of sale in the United
(Id. ¶ 5)
However, Ms. Johnson states that after
JMC’s relationship with Strip Technology ended, JMC entered into
an exclusive United States distribution agreement with another
entity, Ohio Baler Company (“Ohio Baler”).
attaches a copy of the distribution agreement with Ohio Baler to
(Ohio Baler Distribution Agreement, Ex. A to
Johnson Decl. II)
Finally, Ms. Johnson attempts to clarify the relationship
between JMC and J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd. (“McIntyre”).
states that JMC was not “formerly known” as McIntyre, as she
originally claimed in her first Declaration, but that JMC
“manufactures products formerly made by” McIntyre.
In her Declaration attached to JMC’s motion, Ms. Johnson states that JMC was
“formerly known as J. McIntyre Machinery Ltd.” (Johnson Decl. I ¶ 1)
Decl. II ¶ 2)
JMC was formed separately and the two companies
ran alongside each other until McIntyre went into
In response to Plaintiff’s discovery
request, Ms. Johnson attaches certain documents regarding the
liquidation of McIntyre.
Johnson Decl. II)
(McIntyre Liquidation Papers, Ex. B to
Nothing in the liquidation documents
reference JMC, Strip Technology, or the State of New Jersey.
The burden of presenting evidence establishing a prima
facie case of personal jurisdiction over each defendant falls on
Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d
324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009).
To sustain her burden, a plaintiff
must establish jurisdictional facts “‘through sworn affidavits
and competent evidence . . . . At no point may a plaintiff rely
on the bare pleadings alone in order to withstand a defendant’s
Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal
Once the motion is made, plaintiff must respond
with actual proofs, not mere allegations.’”
Machulsky v. Hall,
210 F. Supp. 2d 531, 537 (D.N.J. 2002) (quoting Patterson v.
Fed. Bureau of Investigation, 893 F.2d 595, 603-04 (3d Cir.
In the absence of an evidentiary hearing, only a prima
facie showing is required and plaintiff is “entitled to have its
allegations taken as true and all factual disputes drawn in its
Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F. 3d 93, 94 (3d
The framework for analyzing jurisdiction over the parties
is well known.
A federal court sitting in New Jersey has
jurisdiction over parties to the extent provided under New
Jersey state law.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e).
long-arm statute provides for jurisdiction coextensive with the
due process requirements of the United States Constitution.”
Miller Yacht Sales, 384 F.3d at 96.
Due process requires that each defendant have “minimum
contacts” with the forum state (in this case New Jersey) and
that the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over the parties
comports with “traditional notions of fair play and substantial
Int’l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945).
“Minimum contacts must have a basis in ‘some act by which
defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of
conducting activities within the forum state, thus invoking the
benefits and protection of its laws.’”
Asahi Metal Indust. Co.
v. Sup. Ct. of Cal., 480 U.S. 102, 109 (1987) (quoting Burger
King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475.
Within this framework, courts examine personal jurisdiction
under two distinct theories: general and specific jurisdiction.
See Remick v. Manfredy, 238 F.3d 248, 255 (3d Cir. 2001).
“General jurisdiction is based upon the defendant’s continuous
and systematic contacts with the forum and exists even if the
plaintiff’s cause of action arises from defendant’s non-forum
Id. (citations omitted).
Circuit “requires a very high showing before a court may
exercise general jurisdiction.”
Snyder v. Dolphin Entertainers
Ltd., 235 F. Supp. 2d 433, 437 (E.D. Pa. 2002) (citing Gehling
v. St. George’s Sch. of Med., Ltd., 773 F.2d 539, 542 (3d Cir.
Plaintiffs must show “significantly more than minimum
contacts to establish general jurisdiction.”
Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 819 F.3d 434, 437 (3d Cir.
In the context of foreign corporations, the Supreme
Court has stated that contacts with a forum state are
“continuous and systematic” where the defendant is “essentially
at home in the forum state.”
Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct.
746, 761 (2014).
To establish specific jurisdiction, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that “a non-resident defendant has ‘purposefully
directed’ his activities at a resident of the forum and the
injury arises from or is related to those activities.”
Elec. Co. v. Deutz AG, 270 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. at 472).
There are three steps to the
specific jurisdiction inquiry: (1) the defendant must have
purposefully directed its activities at the forum; (2) the
litigation must “arise out of or relate to” at least one of
those activities; and (3) if the prior two requirements are met,
a court may consider whether the exercise of jurisdiction
otherwise “comports with ‘fair play and substantial justice.’”
O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 317 (3d Cir.
2007) (internal citations omitted).
Personal Jurisdiction Analysis
Plaintiff has not presented sufficient facts to make a
prima facie case for either general or specific jurisdiction.
In making this finding, the Court considers the pleadings along
with the Declarations and supporting evidence JMC submitted with
its motion to dismiss.
See 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R.
Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. § 1351 (3d ed.) (“The court may
receive and weigh the contents of affidavits and any other
relevant matter submitted by the parties to assist it in
determining the jurisdictional facts.”).
1. General Jurisdiction
The Court lacks general jurisdiction over JMC because the
pleadings and supporting evidence clearly show that JMC does not
have “continuous and systematic” contacts with New Jersey.
As Plaintiff concedes in its Complaint, JMC has “no known
agents, facility or other personnel in the United States,” least
of all in the state of New Jersey.
JMC does not pay taxes,
advertise its products, or conduct meetings in New Jersey.
has never sent its employees to New Jersey to conduct business
of any kind.
Simply put, there is no basis for concluding, and
Plaintiff has not alleged any facts suggesting that JMC is
“essentially at home” in New Jersey.
Therefore, the Court holds
that it cannot assert general personal jurisdiction over JMC.
2. Specific Jurisdiction
Neither has Plaintiff established a prima facie case for
specific personal jurisdiction.
This case turns on the first requirement of the specific
jurisdiction analysis – that a nonresident defendant must
purposefully direct its activities at the forum state.
Plaintiff’s pleading posits the “stream of commerce” theory as
the basis for personal jurisdiction over JMC.
Plaintiff states that JMC “sold, distributed and/or otherwise
placed in the stream of commerce the subject Shear Equipment.”
(Compl. at 3)
The Supreme Court recognized the stream of
commerce theory in Asahi Metal Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Super. Ct. of
Cal., where a four-justice plurality held that personal
jurisdiction over a defendant would be proper in a particular
forum if that defendant foresaw and expected that its goods
would be sold as part of a final product to consumers of that
480 U.S. at 117.
In J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, the Supreme
Court attempted to clarify the scope of the “stream of commerce”
131 S. Ct. 2780 (2011).
Note that Nicastro and the
instant case are virtually identical in nature due the
relationship between JMC and J. McIntyre Machinery, the
defendant/petitioner in Nicastro.
At some point prior to
Plaintiff’s incident, JMC took over the manufacturing of
McIntyre’s metal recycling equipment.
(Johnson Decl. II at ¶¶
As the Court understand it, the two entities are not one
in the same – McIntyre continued to exist alongside JMC until
McIntyre dissolved in 2013 – but McIntyre split off a particular
manufacturing business segment that became JMC.
Like Plaintiff in this case, the Nicastro plaintiff filed a
products liability suit against McIntyre, also based in
Nottingham, England, after allegedly suffering injuries while
operating a metal-shearing machine for his employer in New
Id. at 2786.
The machinery reached plaintiff’s
employer through a third-party that acted as McIntyre’s
distributor in the United States.5
McIntyre did not sell
its goods directly to consumers in the U.S., did not have an
office in New Jersey, and never sent any employees to New
Id. at 2790.
The only apparent contact between
McIntyre and New Jersey was the fact that the machine in
question ended up in the state.
McIntyre’s U.S. distributor was not Strip Technology, the distributor JMC
used during the relevant time period in this case.
The New Jersey Supreme Court had held that a New Jersey
court could exercise personal jurisdiction over McIntyre because
the injury occurred in New Jersey, and McIntyre intended to
serve the United States market, expected its machines to be sold
in New Jersey, and took no steps to prevent distribution of its
products in New Jersey.
Id. at 2786.
In a plurality opinion,
the Supreme Court reversed, holding that a foreign corporation’s
mere expectation that its goods would be sold to consumers of
some forum would not be sufficient to establish personal
jurisdiction in that forum.
Id. at 2789.
The plurality found
that a defendant’s conduct must manifest an intention to submit
to the laws of the particular forum at issue.
Id. at 2787.
Personal jurisdiction requires a “forum-by-forum, or sovereignby-sovereign, analysis,” and, when a foreign corporation directs
its goods towards the United States, a distinct sovereign, that
entity may “in principle be subject to the jurisdiction of the
courts of the United States but not of any particular State.”
Id. at 2789.
Since McIntyre did not engage in conduct
purposefully directed at New Jersey, the Court found no basis
for personal jurisdiction there.
Although the plurality opinion in Nicastro “does not
clearly or conclusively define the breadth and scope of the
stream of commerce theory, . . . . there is no doubt that
Nicastro stands for the proposition that targeting the national
market is not enough to impute jurisdiction to all the forum
Oticon, Inc. v. Sebotek Hearing Sys., LLC, 865 F.
Supp. 2d 501, 513 (D.N.J. 2011).
As in Nicastro, the facts here
reveal only JMC’s intent to serve the U.S. market; there were no
marketing or sales efforts directed at the State of New Jersey.
Plaintiff alleges that Strip Technology, not JMC, sold the
relevant machinery directly to Plaintiff’s employer.
Technology, whose distribution relationship with JMC has
apparently concluded, was not a subsidiary of JMC and the two
entities shared no commonality of ownership or management.
Further, Plaintiff does not allege that JMC directed Strip
Technology to serve the New Jersey market in particular.6
Even assuming that Plaintiff suffered injuries while
operating a defective JMC recycling shear, Plaintiff alleges no
facts that JMC engaged in activities in New Jersey or otherwise
purposefully availed itself of the New Jersey market in
The Court therefore holds that Plaintiff has not
made out a prima facie case for specific jurisdiction.
Although JMC Director Sally Johnson claims that there is no written
distribution agreement between JMC and Strip Technology, the agreement
between JMC and its new distributor, Ohio Baler, demonstrates that when JMC
enters into distribution relationships, it does so for North America in
general with no more specific direction. (Ohio Baler Distribution Agreement
at ¶ 1.6)
The Court will not grant Plaintiff’s letter request to deny
JMC’s motion pending the completion of jurisdictional discovery.
As a general rule, jurisdictional discovery should be
allowed unless the plaintiff’s claim is “clearly frivolous.”
Mass. Sch. of Law at Andover, Inc. v. Am. Bar Ass’n, 107 F.3d
1026, 1042 (3d Cir. 1997).
If a plaintiff presents factual
allegations that “suggest ‘with reasonable particularity’ the
possible existence of the requisite ‘contacts between [the
party] and the forum state,’ the plaintiff's right to conduct
jurisdictional discovery should be sustained.”
Toys “R” Us,
Inc. v. Step Two, S.A., 318 F.3d 446, 456 (3d Cir. 2003)
(quoting Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat’l Ass’n v. Farino, 960
F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992)).
Here, Plaintiff has failed to meet this required, though
admittedly low threshold showing.
Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges
only that JMC “sold, distributed and/or otherwise placed in the
stream of commerce the subject Shear Equipment.”
(Compl. at 3)
The Complaint identifies Strip Technology as the party that
“sold, distributed and/or otherwise placed in the stream of
commerce to Doctor Copper the subject Shear Equipment.”
Plaintiff does not allege any direct
connection between JMC and Dr. Copper or New Jersey.
Plaintiff concedes that, upon information and belief, JMC “has
no known agents, facility or other personnel in the United
(Id. at 5)
The Complaint does not allege JMC
targeted the New Jersey market, sold products directly to
customers in New Jersey, or that JMC otherwise has any contact
with the State of New Jersey.
Following McIntyre, which held in
the context of a practically identical defendant that merely
placing goods in the stream of commerce, even with the
expectation that the goods might reach consumers in the forum
state, would not establish personal jurisdiction, Plaintiff’s
claim that the Court has personal jurisdiction over JMC is
Neither does Plaintiff’s letter response to JMC’s motion
present any factual allegations that suggest with reasonable
particularity the possible existence of contacts between JMC and
New Jersey so as to support further discovery.
no factual allegations at all.
Instead, Plaintiff asks for
“brief and pointed discovery of the defendant JMC . . . as to
any nexus with the State of New Jersey.”
(Pl.’s Ltr. (emphasis
Plaintiff’s specific requests for invoices and bills of
lading connecting JMC to New Jersey are not allegations that
these documents exist.
The Court will not permit Plaintiff to
use jurisdictional discovery as a fishing expedition to support
an otherwise improper assertion of personal jurisdiction.
Further, to the extent Plaintiff requested “brief and
pointed discovery,” JMC has responded with specific statements
in Ms. Johnson’s Declaration, and relevant documents.
has not responded to this new information.
There is no
indication, and Plaintiff has not alleged, that any other
responsive documents exist or that further discovery would be
Based on Plaintiff’s silence, and absence of any
factual allegations that would support personal jurisdiction,
the Court finds that there is no basis for jurisdictional
discovery and therefore will deny Plaintiff’s request.
Remaining Claims and Cross-Claims
Since the Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over
JMC, Strip Technology’s and Dr. Copper’s cross-claims against
JMC will also be dismissed.
In addition, the Court will dismiss
JMC’s cross-claims against Strip Technology and Dr. Copper, and
terminate JMC as a party to the litigation.
As a result, only
Plaintiff’s claims against Strip Technology, as alleged in
Counts II, III, IV, V, and VI of Plaintiff’s Complaint, will
remain in this case.
For the reasons set forth above, the Court will GRANT
Defendant JMC’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against
JMC, along with any cross-claims Defendants Dr. Copper and Strip
Technology have instituted against JMC, for lack of personal
The Court will also dismiss JMC’s counter-claims
against all other Defendants.
Only Plaintiff’s claims against
Strip Technology will remain.
An appropriate order accompanies
Date: April 10, 2015
s/ Joseph E. Irenas
Joseph E. Irenas, S.U.S.D.J.
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